The Clarkson Effect
Many factors come in to play when it comes to us financing a car, we discussed this last year. However there may be one factor that got left off the list, one name that a lot of people go to for their car related reviews and information. I am talking of course of Top Gear and, until recently, its host Jeremy Clarkson. Top Gear built its impressive following on the back of its brutally honest hosts Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson is the one we will focus on here as he is without a doubt the ring leader of the group. So the question becomes, can Jeremy Clarkson, one man in a TV studio or behind a computer screen in England affect car sales worldwide?
Let us begin in April of 2005 when MG Rover, the last domestically owned mass production car manufacturer in the British motor industry shut its doors for good. What had reduced this former power house to an empty factory? Some people would say it was the fact that they had dropped their range down to a very limited number of models, or that the directors had taken 40 million pounds in bonuses when the company was already in financial strife. No not according to Jeff Ali who when interviewed by driving.co.uk stated that “Clarkson contributed to the situation. He’s been very derogatory about the cars and people hate the guy. He’s not welcome here.” A banner was even draped across the gates of the factory that read “Anti Clarkson Campaign” and the web address for the BBC complaints department.
In 2001 at Vauxhall’s Luton factory workers lost their jobs when it was announced that the Vauxhall Vectra (Holden Vectra for us Aussies) would no longer be produced there. The workforce at the factory blamed Clarkson, he had destroyed the car on Top Gear for being “so dull the only thing he could think to talk about was its coat hooks” and continued his barrage within his column of The Sunday Times. The coverage reportedly caused a walk out at the factory and led to the managing director to complain directly to the BBC. The car had sold significantly less models then its main rival the Ford Mondeo and although it’s hard to find a direct correlation between Clarkson’s comments and the drop in sales some would point out that the Vectra is no longer in production where the Mondeo is still around.
The Car Industry refers to this as “The Clarkson Effect” which is rumoured to make or break a vehicle’s fortune. A positive response from the man in the dad jeans will have thousands of people flooding showrooms where a negative review will have a similar effect… just towards the competitor’s models.
“The Jeremy Clarkson effect is renowned within the car industry,” says Jamie Matthews, chief executive of Initials Marketing, an agency that develops campaigns for car brands. “He can make or break car launches. He’s entertaining and eccentric, but he’s also the car expert who has an opinion, and that’s what buyers want: they are looking for a strong point of view about a car to guide them”.
The Effect Of A Negative or Positive Review in the Automotive and Car Finance Industries
So let’s have a look at some of the negative things Clarkson has said about various vehicles… please note these are his reviews not mine.
BMW 1 series “I am choosing the words for my conclusion with even more care than usual. So here goes. The 1 series is c**p”
Volkswagen Jetta “I’d love to meet the man who styled the exterior to find out if he’d done it as some sort of a joke. But mostly I’d like to meet the man who simply didn’t bother with the interior. Because looking at that dashboard gives you some idea of what it might be like to be dead.”
And finally the BMW X3 “If you are clinically insane, by which I mean you wake up in the morning and you think you are an onion, this is your car.”
So as you can see Clarkson doesn’t pull any punches with his reviews. So how much does a positive review really effect car sales? According to one large manufacturer a 5 star review from Clarkson in his Sunday Times column can amount to about 7,000 extra units sold in Britain alone. One up market car manufacturer stated that they witness an 800% increase in website traffic if their vehicle receives a positive review from Clarkson. A good case in point for the positive effect Clarkson can have is the Citroen Berlingo Multispace Family Car; this was the first car Clarkson reviewed when Top Gear returned in 2002. He raved about it! Before the show aired Citroen had sold 200 models in Britain that month, Eleven days after the airing of the episode it had sold over 800 and was having to import extra vehicles to meet demand. Marc Raven from Citroen was quoted at the time as saying “There was a massive uplift on the back of that, we couldn’t quite believe it”
The fear for motoring’s marketing people, though, is that he’ll find a car that is worse than the Vectra, which in turn could lead to a consumer boycott, factory closures and thousands on the breadline.
For 360 Finance, we pride ourselves on our customer service and back ourselves as the best online car finance broker in Australia. We love to receive genuine reviews on our social channels and take on board both the positive and the albeit minor amounts of negative feedback. We have also found that having a positive online review presence has helped customers garner trust in our business and has definitely helped drive sales. Let us know on Facebook or Google+ about your experience with positive or negative reviews and how they have affected your business.
Are Clarkson’s Words Gospel?
Or perhaps not. As with everything about the man, the Clarkson effect is prone to exaggeration, and he’s the first to admit it. “‘I don’t have any influence over what people do, I really don’t. It makes no difference what I say,” said Clarkson at the Hay festival in 2008… and he could have a point. In a column from July 1999 he wrote about the Chrysler Voyager and described is as “the worst car you can buy right now” The car went on to be the second best-selling people mover in Britain. And yet we still have marketing companies stating that he has this huge effect on product sales.
It’s not just cars he can have an effect on either, in 1999 Clarkson was personally named, and blamed, in a clothing industry report for being at fault for a 14% drop in jeans sales. Teenagers had seen him on TV and decided “they did not want to look like their dads” the report by AC Nielsen stated. Soon afterwards Levi’s laid off 6,000 staff. Taking it in stride Clarkson told Levi’s he would stop wearing his favourite jeans…if the clothing company paid him 40 million pounds.
So it would seem that yes, Jeremy Clarkson does have an effect on what we buy, whether it be cars or pants he seems to have a say in it. I will finish this post with a quote from the man himself; “I’m not employed to think one thing and say something else” he wrote in one column. “Am I supposed to recommend all cars that are made here, irrespective of their price, performance or quality? Because if I am, all of you must go out tomorrow and buy a London cab”.
“Let’s just say that I had been nicer to the Vectra, and let’s just imagine for a moment that people pay the slightest bit of attention to what I write,” he wrote in a separate article. “Then yes, more people might have bought one. But now they’d be the ones writing to me. Wondering why I hadn’t warned them of its numerous shortfalls. And calling me a git.”
So next time you are watching Clarkson’s new show or an old episode of Top Gear and are inspired to buy a shiny new car give the team at 360 Finance a call, because even Clarkson would love our low rates!